By MIKE COPPER
LEWISBURG – As if there were any other way the Fairview boys swimming team would have celebrated.
A year ago, the Tigers circled Bucknell University’s Kinney Natatorium with the second-place trophy from the PIAA Class AA meet.
Cut to Saturday, and their championship hardware was the only thing that stayed relatively dry while their swimmers and coaches frolicked with it in the pool’s shallow end.
Those wet shenanigans culminated the greatest postseason by an aquatics program in District 10 history. Fairview’s 180 team points, 67 more than second-place Mars Area, were largely accumulated by its five event victories over the meet’s two days.
“It’s just a dream come true,” coach J.R. Jensen said as he emerged from his plunge. “I know we’ve talked about it with these guys for two or three years, and every year we kept getting a little closer. It’s just nice to have it all come together.”
Fairview was already guaranteed the team title before the meet’s 400-yard freestyle relay finale. That didn’t stop Carl Nerthling, Harrison Grimm, Richard Petrella and anchor Alex Borowski from ending the meet the same way the Tigers began it.
The quartet combined for a victorious time of 3 minutes, 13.47 seconds.
No Tigers had more medals around their necks than Petrella and Grimm.
Petrella received PIAA gold for the 200 medley relay, the 400 freestyle relay and the 200 individual medley, plus a bronze for third in Saturday’s 100 freestyle.
Grimm also comprised one-quarter of Fairview’s two relays winners, plus the individual victor of Friday’s 200 freestyle and the seventh-place swimmer in the 100 breaststroke.
Danny Roberts rounded out the team’s five event titles, as he defended the AA diving title with a PIAA record of 496.45 points.
“It actually feels like we’re living a dream,” Petrella said. “This was an idea that some of the guys threw around midseason. But to actually see it happen, and have the (PIAA) trophy in our hands is something that’s unforgettable. We couldn’t have done this without everyone giving their absolute best.”
District success wasn’t limited to the Tigers, though.
Franklin sophomore Phil Emerson became the school’s first individual male state titlist when he won Saturday’s 100 freestyle. Emerson (46.04) outlasted Susquehanna Township’s Nathan Smith (46.16), voted the meet’s outstanding male swimmer, and Petrella (46.63) in the championship sprint.
“It means a lot right now,” Emerson said of his achievement with the Knights, “but I’m hoping to get a few more (titles) by the time I graduate.”
It wasn’t a title, but Emerson did add another medal to his mantle after the 100 freestyle. He anchored Andy Frederick, Quinn Heffern and Isaac Cooke to fifth in the 400 freestyle relay (3:16.50).
Mars Area’s Kurt Muehlheuser (51.93) fended off three district challengers for 100 backstroke honors. Mercyhurst Prep’s David Benczkowski (52.90) and Griffin Schaetzle (53.05) were second and third, with Corry freshman Brent Benedict fourth (53.37).
“I’ve been training to be in this position since my freshman year,” said Benczkowski, who was seeded second for that event. “I put in a lot of work and finally got up here. To finish second for my senior year, it’s just a great way to go out.”
Benedict still has three more years to augment his initial PIAA results. Saturday’s fourth-place medal, plus the seventh he received from Friday’s 100 butterfly, made him Corry’s first freshman of either gender to place in the top eight at states.
“It hasn’t really sunk in yet that I’ve done this,” Benedict said. “These accomplishments that I’ve had are just so exciting.”
MIKE COPPER can be reached at 870-1614 or by e-mail.